FINISHED MORE CHAPTERS THAN I EXPECTED! I SWEAR I'M NOT DOING THIS ON PURPOSE I JUST HAVE MORE TIME THAN I EXPECTED TO HAVE :) THIS IS VERY RARE FOR ME.
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While semantics and arrangements were being made for the four chosen, Arya spent her time between her friends and Malich. It was no secret they were lovers now that Malich had so boldly exited her chambers a disheveled mess, not that she was ever trying to hide anything.
Some whispered about her, others were more blatant with what they thought of her, and many accused her of sleeping her way to a position within the alumni. In response she’d simply invite them to a duel if they felt bold enough. They didn’t and she didn’t care either way.
They’d managed to make such uproar, however, that Mekhi and the preceptors had a hard time calming the disciples who weren’t chosen. It’s true, Malich had basically guaranteed her a position if she was to concede, but she’d also earned it. If they were to learn she was the phantom, which they wouldn’t because Malich wouldn’t allow it, they’d understand whyshe’d been chosen.
“I still can’t believe you and the Majii,” Lumi smiled in awe.
“Neither can I, if that makes you feel any better,” Arya smiled back.
“Here’s your medallion.”
Arya took the medallion from Lumi’s hand and placed it around her neck. She noticed Lumi eyeing her suspiciously. “What?”
Curious she asked, “Do you know what sigil dons your medallion?”
Arya looked down at the crest she didn’t recognize and shrugged, “Should I?”
“It’s the sigil for the Litri dynasty…the Royal House of Litri.”
The name didn’t ring a bell. She’d never heard of the house of Litri. It wasn’t in any of the books she’s read, historic or otherwise. “I don’t recall the house of Litri.”
“You wouldn’t. It was destroyed either before or around the time you were born and everything in it was wiped from the planes. Occasionally grifters go digging there and come across long lost artifacts. They barter them to those who’d pay a pretty penny for the valuable relics,” Lumi explained. “My father used to work for the house of Litri. He was hand of the King and he paid the price for it. No one dare speaks the Litri name now, especially in the presence of royalty for fear of losing their head.”
“If Litri was a dynasty, what happened to its populace?”
“Those who weren’t hunted down and killed know better than to show their faces in these parts. My guess is they’re in hiding.”
Jax came sauntering over to them and Lumi perked up. That’s new. She ogled Jax like a kid with a shiny new toy. Arya recognized that feeling and wondered if she looked the same whenever she was near Malich.
“Arya,” a deep voice she recognized called to her. Her head whipped in his direction and her slips spread wide into a smile. Malich. She hadn’t expected him.
“Best not keep the Majii waiting,” Lumi elbowed her.
“Shut it,” Arya blushed.
Malich nodded to Lumi, Rayu and Dax, who returned his gesture. Arya waved goodbye to her friends and headed to her chambers with the Majii trailing behind. She adds a little twist in her hips knowing he’s watching her every move. When they’re finally alone in her room, she crushes her lips to his, only to have him pull away after a moment, too soon to satisfy her need to drink from his lips.
“You’d betterbe dying,” Arya deadpanned.
Malich smiled, but his smile never reached his eyes. “The soldiers who came here to attack us, they belong to my family,” Malich confided.
That got her attention. Arya backed away searching his eyes for answers and letting his words sink in. Jarrah…as in the house of Jarrah…how she never made the connection baffled her.
“You’re a gods damned prince?” she gasped.
“Was,” he shrugged, “I was denounced as a traitor and stripped of all lands and titles.”
Unable to speak, she eyed him incredulously. “Why would your family want to attack you? What did you do?”
“Nothing, except win my fathers favor and a target on my back,” Malich sulked. “My oldest brother Kahlem, he framed me for the slaughter of a township he himself butchered. He bought lies with coin and cast my fathers favor elsewhere. I was banished along with Mekhi who was my trainer at the time. I was fifteen cycles. We turned to thieving and we were arrested for it, enslaved and then we escaped. I became a soldier of fortune with Mekhi at my side. That’s how the Red Legion was born.”
This was how the most powerful man in the Redlands came to be. Intrigued, she couldn’t help but ask, “Why are you telling me this?”
Malich took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I’m telling you because I must broker a peace with them so no more blood will be spilled.”
“You’re not doing this because of me, are you?”
“It’s no secret I’d paint the world red for you, but this is business…not pleasure.”
“Again, why are you telling me this? I know you.”
His lips spread into a grin. “I never could get one past you, could I?”
“No,” she cocked her head to the side, folding her arms, “And you’re stalling.”
“Kahlem not only agreed to peace, but he offered to clear my name, give my lands back to me, my fortunes, and my title.”
Something wasn’t right. Why would his brother go through the trouble of taking it all from him just to give it back. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would he do that? What does he want in exchange?”
Malich met her eyes and she felt a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. “He’d like to meet you,” he exhaled.
She got the feeling there was more he wasn’t telling her. “Meaning he wants to see my face so he can kill me when it suits him,” she surmised.
“Precisely,” Malich nodded. “There isn’t a place within the planes you would be able to hide, which is why I’ll be masquerading someone else as my lover.”
“As an alumni assassin, your identity is your best kept secret. If you wish to maintain your position, no one can know who you are. Keeping that identity a secret is easier to do when you do not have the world watching your every move.”
It was clever, but she had questions…lotsof questions. “What would this imposter be doing exactly?”
Malich’s expression became grave and she knew she wouldn’t like what came out of his mouth next. “I’d have to marry her of course and provide heirs.”
Her hazel eyes flared. “Abso-fucking-lutely not!” She glared at him. “How can you ask such a price of me Malich?”
“Then give up the alumni and rule at my side.”
“I’m no idiot. This newly extended olive branch from Kahlem is a part of a much larger game Arya, and if I’m to play to win, I mustn’t sit on the sidelines.”
“So you came to ask for permission to betray me, is that it?”
Eyes downcast, he sighed, “No, I came to ask you to join me or understand.”
“I’ll tell you what I understand,” she unsheathed a stiletto from her side and embedded its point into his chest just above his heart, “I understand that if you so much as touch another woman, you’ll be waking up beside her corpse.”
“I don’t have time for your tantrums Arya.”
Scoffing, she glowered at him, getting in his face so he’d understand that under no circumstances was she joking. “And I will not stand by while you take another woman to bed.”
Waving his hand, he brushed her stiletto away from his chest. “You don’t have a choice.”
“Really?” She huffed. “You could always turn it down and be content as the king of the Redlands.”
“Touché,” he countered, “but it’s never been enough for me, you know that. I’ve always had my eyes on gaining back that which was taken from me.”
“At the cost of losingme?”
“I’d like to hope not, but of course that would be yourchoice, not mine.”
Oh Godsshe hated him in this moment. This was one of her fears. Malich was ambitious to a fault and left numerous casualties in his wake as he attempted to regain the power he once lost. She’d hoped he’d be different with her. She’d hoped to matter more.
“So that’s it? Agree to be what exactly…you’re mistress…your dirty little secret?”
“Absent a ring my darling,” he twirled a strand of her hair about his finger and smiled, “you arealreadyboth of those things.”
Arya snapped and slapped him so hard across the face she left a red handprint on his cheek. “How dare you?” She seethed.
Unfazed he asked, “Do you agree to it or not? And need I remind you of your pledge to me?”
“No, you needn’t remind me, arsehole.”
“I’ll have your answer now then.”
“You said it yourself, I don’t have a choice,” Arya feigned a smile. She either had to give up her dreams of becoming alumni or tolerate another woman in his life. She’d have to submit.
“All I’ve ever wanted was to be alumni since I was young. It’s who I am Malich.”
“Is that your choice then?”
Choice? What choice?One would never choose to rip out her own heart. This was hisdoing. The illusion of choice couldn’t hide that. “It’s always been my choice.”
“Then I guess there’s nothing left to say to each other,” he replied, disappointed.
Malich leaned closer, their eyes locked in an intense gaze, and he crushed his mouth to hers. As much as she hated him in this moment, she hated herself more. He’d just pierced her heart and yet she still found herself drawn to him…longingfor him.
He knocked at the door of her desires and she let him in. Conceding to his touch, she spent the night with him. When she awoke the next morning, he was gone.ns18.104.22.168da2